Patisseries throughout Greece serve this classic dessert. Galaktoboureko is semolina custard baked in buttered phyllo pastry and topped with lemon syrup.

Serves: 36Hands-on: 45 minutesTotal: 1 hour 30 minutesDifficulty: Medium

Serves: 36


  • 4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 1⁄2 tsp. grated lemon zest, divided
  • 10 cups whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and divided
  • 2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 7 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup fine semolina
  • 1 package phyllo, thawed and at room temperature


  • In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring 2 cups of sugar, water, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, let syrup come to room temperature, and set it aside.
  • Put the milk, 2 tablespoons of butter, the remaining sugar, and vanilla in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook the mixture until the milk is scalded and take it off the heat.
  • In another bowl, whisk the eggs and semolina. Slowly whisk a ladle of milk into the egg mixture. Add four more ladles of milk, one at a time. Transfer the egg mixture into the milk mixture and place the pot over a medium heat. Stir the mixture until it thickens to a consistency like custard. Add the remaining zest and take off the heat. Place a tea towel over the pan, and cover the pan with a lid to prevent a crust from forming. Set it aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the phyllo from package and divide the sheets into two equal piles (tops and bottoms). Cover each pile with a damp tea towel so the phyllo doesn’t dry out. Brush the bottom and sides of a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with butter.
  • Take 1 sheet of phyllo from the bottom pile, and brush with butter. Place the phyllo sheet in the bottom of the pan with a quarter of the sheet hanging over the sides. Continue buttering and laying the bottom-layer sheets in the pan until the entire bottom and edges are covered with phyllo. Add the custard, spread it evenly over the bottom sheets and wrap the overhanging phyllo over the custard.
  • Take 1 sheet from the top pile and brush the surface with butter. Place the sheet on top of the filling and repeat the process with the remaining sheets to cover the entire surface of the pan. If excess phyllo is hanging from the edges of the pan, tuck the excess into the sides of the pan. Score the top layers of the phyllo, about 1⁄4 inch deep, into serving squares.
  • Bake the pie on the middle rack of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden. As soon as the pie is removed from the oven, ladle the reserved syrup over the entire surface. Use all the syrup. Let the galaktoboureko absorb the syrup as it comes to room temperature. Cut it and serve it at room temperature or cold.